Pick Two: Happiness, Entrepreneurship, Identity

During the holidays, I have spent my time amongst the greatest minds in business and psychology, pouring through the works of authors like Seth Godin and Peter Thiel. One book that stuck out for me was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which she catalogs her year-long journey towards the pursuit of happiness. An accidental purchase (I happened to spot it on my way to the cashier), I was pleasantly surprised by the methodical way in which Rubin pursues her goals. She breaks down her goals into twelve themes, and implements one a month, in order to create a sustainable way of transforming herself.

owever, this book has resonated with me for other reasons. What does it mean to be happy? Furthermore, how does the pursuit of happiness balance with the pursuit of entrepreneurship?

rowing up in an entrepreneurial family, I always believed that my purpose on this planet was to create my own mark, my own venture whose impact extended beyond myself. When I meet new people (whether at a house party or a networking event), the first thing they find out about me is my life dream: "I want to have a successful venture by 35."

Having ran my own venture before, a question of mine is whether or not entrepreneurship is paradoxical to happiness. A frustration of mine, that I am sure many entrepreneurs share, is that entrepreneurship is not glorious at all. It is long hours, a lonely and dangerous path of uncertainty. In fact, books like The Founder's Dilemmas by Noah Wasserman state that entrepreneurs (on average) make less money per year than individuals who stay in their jobs. Entrepreneurship requires a full love and belief for your idea, almost to the point of irrationality. In the startup scene, there is also an idealization to sacrifice; as if the more you sacrifice, the more credibility or success you have as an entrepreneur. Can one truly be happy working 100-hour weeks? Does one have to sacrifice work-life balance (e.g. friends, relationships) to make it in this world?

find the path to entrepreneurship so inspirational. Many creations that have transformed entire industries have resulted from entrepreneurship, such as Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb; individuals who dared to dream big. Like Seth Godin says, we need more linchpins in our society (see the book Linchpin by Seth Godin), people who are willing to be invaluable by stepping up without being asked. But at what point does dedicating yourself to a higher purpose (e.g. reinventing education), affect or override your personal identity? Can one be an entrepreneur (in the full and purposeful sense), while maintaining the other aspects of their identity that made them special to begin with (e.g. music, dance, writing, etc.)? This question is one I intend to explore this coming year. Onward, brave souls!